Traveling for business isn’t the same as going on vacation. While there are some similarities, it’s important to remember that you’re not only representing yourself while traveling for work; you’re also sending out important signals about your company — its culture, brand and products.
Whether you’re travelling to meet with current or prospective clients, attend a seminar, or scout a new meeting location, presenting yourself in a professional and friendly manner can send positive messages about the company you represent. The opposite is also true. Being overly casual or rude to hospitality staff at your hotel or restaurants, for example, can leave a very bad impression of your employer among the people you meet.
Here are five critical aspects of business travel to consider:
What you wear when travelling for business sends an unmistakable message to the people you see about how you perceive your place and purpose in the situation. Your appearance and clothing also affect how you feel and act when meeting people during your travels. Dressing too casually may be perceived as disrespectful. It can also motivate you to act more like a tourist than a businessperson. Similarly, over-dressing may make you feel uncomfortable and send out a stressed out vibe. Business casual clothes are ideal for travel as long as you have time to change into more professional attire before meeting with people at your destination.
Keep in mind that a business trip is intended to achieve some purpose or goal that benefits your employer. Schedule your time wisely to accomplish as much as possible during your time away. Remember that you’re working, not enjoying a relaxing getaway. But be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get from one place to another without rushing or being late.
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Just like when you’re on a personal vacation, be sure to leave tips for hospitality staff who make your time away from home more comfortable. A 20 percent tip for a waitress, bartender or taxi driver is solid. But when tipping for services that don’t come with a bill, such as housekeeping and concierge support, consider the cost of living in the city you’re visiting. Staff at a hotel in Chicago, New York or Boston may appreciate a bit more generosity than what you’d normally give in less-pricey locales.
You may not regularly heed your mother’s advice about the rules of polite dinner conversation, but table manners at a business meeting can mean the difference between a closed deal and a catastrophe. As a rule of thumb, follow the lead of the host when sitting, ordering and conversing. And please, keep your elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed and don’t ask to finish anyone else’s meal. Say thank you to the host who picks up the tab.
When traveling with colleagues or your boss, business travel can be a great opportunity to learn from more experienced pros in your field and get some elusive one-on-one time to bond. But everyday situations, from your morning routine to after-dinner drinks, can get a bit awkward on the road, especially if you’re sharing a room. Have fun and enjoy the time away, but don’t forget that you’re still working — no matter what anyone else is doing. Avoid harming your relationships and damaging your credibility by drinking too much or getting overly comfortable with your boss or colleagues when you’re traveling for business.
When all is said and done, when you return from a business trip, don’t forget to send thank you notes to follow up with new clients, associates and others you met with during your trip. Express appreciation for their time and any achievement they helped you attain.